GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — Human trafficking is a growing problem, and not just in the big cities. In the last week, Garden City police arrested 34-year-old Joe Wimbley on suspicion of human trafficking.
“It can happen anywhere,” said Janene Radke, who runs Family Crisis Services in Garden City. “It doesn’t just happen in the urban areas, and we’re starting to see more of a rise of it in the rural areas.”
Experts say cases of human trafficking can be complicated.
“They tend to travel, because they don’t want to sit in one spot and be caught,” said Detective Hailey Knoll with the Garden City Police Department.
Law enforcement say human trafficking has always existed in rural areas, but it’s becoming more common to catch now. Police credit a rise in reports of trafficking to awareness campaigns that they compare to drunk driving awareness.
“Once awareness was raised about what a drunk driver might look like, people started looking for it,” said Knoll. “Similar, once we started telling people what a trafficking victim might look like, or some of the behaviors, people started looking.”
Officials say that in the last four years, they’ve come across about six or seven cases of trafficking.
“We all know that not everybody reports and not everybody seeks help or has the opportunity to seek help, so we know that there are more cases that are around here,” said Radke. “We just haven’t necessarily seen them.”
There are signs that average citizens can look out for and report to police.
“Frequent runaways, inappropriate age relationship,” said Knoll.
“Maybe they look malnourished,” said Radke, “they haven’t been allowed to eat.”
When a trafficking victim is rescued, it’s often a complex road to recovery.
“Particularly if they have been in that situation for a long period of time,” said Radke, “it’s really brave and very frightening for them to be out of that situation.”